We have to talk

Jim Ward set the bar high during the Dec. 2 organizational meeting when it Nancy Oatescame to thanking his family for their support during the 16 years he served on Town Council. It was pointed out to me, archly, that I did not single out any family members in my generic thanks. So, here’s what I would have said, if I had it to do over again:

Thank you to my husband, my son and my daughter-in-law, who came to witness my swearing in, even though they had other places to be and I had promised them it would take only 15 minutes.

Thank you to my daughter, who was sound asleep in France during the ceremony, but earlier had picked out a suit for me and persuaded me to wear heels.

Thank you to my siblings, who supported my run for office, even though we don’t all see eye-to-eye politically, and who taught me that you can disagree with someone stridently but still respect them and enjoy their company. Despite our disparate viewpoints, we never stop talking to one another, and we never stop listening. That practice might come in handy during the upcoming four years.

Your council needs to hear from you. We make decisions that affect you. We won’t know what’s important to you unless you tell us, by sending an email or calling us (our contact information is on our individual bio pages on townofchapelhill.org) or speaking from the podium at a council meeting.

If something is not working right in the community, let town staff know. Go to the town’s website, hover your cursor over “I want to …” then click on Town Departments under the Contact subheading.

I was working on campus last week when a colleague came into the office one morning still steaming about the massive traffic jam he’d sat in on the way home from work the night before. The contractor building the hotel at Southern Village had blocked off one of the two southbound lanes along U.S. 15-501 into the evening rush-hour. Traffic was at a near standstill from South Columbia Street to beyond Southern Village.

An email to the town manager revealed that the contractor’s permit to close one lane was valid only from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. No one knew that the contractor had violated his permit. Maybe the hundreds of people trying to leave campus or the hospital or exit the bypass thought this was how the town did business. It took one person speaking up to fix the problem.

I’m guessing that all of us on council want what’s best for Chapel Hill. We may have different views of what the ideal town looks like, who the community is and how to bring out the full potential of everyone. Let’s start talking.
– Nancy Oates

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  1. Bruce Springsteen

     /  December 15, 2015

    The most valuable thing in town is the James Taylor bridge. Can you imagine what a mess it would be if that bridge went out? A large number of people would experience a large inconvenience.

    About two months ago they started working on the SV Park & Ride, where the bus pulls in and does the loop then stops in front of the bus stops, replacing the pavement or whatever. But they’re still not finished and I haven’t even seem them working on it the last month or so, although of course I’m not there all day watching.

  2. Bruce Springsteen

     /  December 15, 2015

    So I wrote that Monday night and then on Tuesday morning when I went to the bus there were people working on that bus stop area. Hmmm.

  3. George C

     /  December 16, 2015

    I hope you realize that November was one of the wettest Novembers we’ve had in a long time. My motorcycle can vouch for that. Perhaps the weather had something to do with the delay.

  4. Bruce Springsteen

     /  December 16, 2015

    I don’t know how wet Nov was or even what they’re doing there except that they’re doing something but it just seemed like a long time to accomplish something that doesn’t seem like that major of a project, by the looks of it at least.

    Speaking of wet and bus stops, the but stop there is the glass rectangular cube kind and where the sides meet at the top back, right above the benches, it leaks, so if it’s raining the bench is wet and you can’t sit down.

    It’s seems like a questionable design to begin with. It seems like running the ceiling/roof so that it slopes downward as it approaches the back of the bus stop and then runs past the back wall, so that the water would drain down the back, would be better. When the bus stop is a glass cube like that you’re at the mercy of the failing of any given seal where sides meet.

  5. Julie McClintock

     /  December 18, 2015

    So glad you looked into the permit conditions which are meant to protect public health and welfare. We observed lots of mud on the road yesterday in the same spot. I reported to stormwater and OC soil and erosion got it cleaned up expeditiously.

  6. Joe Blow

     /  December 29, 2015


    Good article about what CHALT wants to do to Chapel Hill. This small business owner is already planning to move to Durham in the next few years if CHALT succeeds in HALTing high density development as they intend to.

  7. David

     /  December 30, 2015

    After you’ve read the article Joe links to above, which espouses an overly simple supply-side argument, read this one:


    Then let’s discuss what might actually help ameliorate the affordable housing shortage in Chapel Hill. The 260 new units being built on Elliot Rd, which, according to the developer, are going to be “luxury apartments,” surely won’t help matters, and may well make the problem worse.

  8. Terri

     /  December 30, 2015

    Joe Blow,

    You should do some research before you move your business. It’s true that Durham is building more housing, but their rents are increasing, not decreasing. Their poverty rate is also increasing. And their median income is about $20,000 lower than in Chapel Hill. To me, those aren’t great selling points for increased density, but they are pretty bad selling points for moving a business. The story the data tells is that Durham is following in the footprints of Chapel Hill–more people, higher costs of living, gentrification. You can review the data on your own at: http://www.census.gov/acs/www/data/data-tables-and-tools/data-profiles/2014/

    The Atlantic article is quick to call names, like you and others who advocate for increased density as a democratization tool. But if someone moves to a small town or a funky city, it’s because there is something in the characteristics of that locale that draws them, including diversity in the types of people living there. Losing those characteristics has an intangible but significant cost to some. The growth in Chapel Hill has been disproportionately supporting higher income residents (homogenizing) while policy is focused on affordability. To me, that gap is the problem. The real estate developers are the only ones who are winning. My hope is that the new council will make significant strides in reducing the gap between what the developers are allowed to do and what policy dictates.

  9. Joe Blow

     /  December 30, 2015

    David, you’re assuming that those 260 luxury units on Elliott Rd are going to attract 260 new wealthy people to the town that can afford those units. In all reality, those 260 units will compete with other “luxury” units for tenants. Rent will have to come down on these units, or on others, or they’re going to be vacant. I really doubt that somebody with money who lives in Raleigh now sees those “luxury apartments” on Estes and says, “Hey, I should move to Chapel Hill”. More than likely, a person with money in Chapel Hill is going to decide between Estes and Greenbridge and those other new buildings. Somebody is going to have to *decrease* their rent to fill the unit, or it’s going to be vacant.

    The problem is that there are many, many more people moving here than we have housing for, which IS going to continue to drive prices up. We’ve seen a slow down in the increase in rent in the past few years because of all of the new development.

    Carolina North is coming. No amount of convoluted “affordable housing” rules is going to offset 50,000 new people that want to live near campus in the next decade. Rent control and forcing builders to build sub-market housing isn’t going to make a dent. There will be many, many more people fighting to get into the same amount of housing, and prices will continue to skyrocket.

    Terri, rent is increasing in the gentrified areas of Durham, but most of Durham is still very poor (and very affordable). Our lease is up in three years, and we’re looking to purchase a space, instead of renting. With major developments being stopped by CHALT, there’s going to be nothing that we can afford in Chapel Hill in three years. Yes, Durham is poorer, but real estate is *significantly* cheaper because there’s simply more of it.

    The idea that people aren’t going to want to move to Chapel Hill because 140 W Franklin is ugly (uglier than the weed-filled parking lot that was there?) is irrelevant. UNC-CH and the public school system are the engines that drives people to move to town, not the “charm” of old, single-story buildings. People are going to continue to move here, regardless of what the buildings look like, and if there’s not enough housing/commercial space, prices will continue to increase.

    As a small business owner, I simply don’t have any other choice.

  10. plurimus

     /  December 30, 2015

    Joe, you should first define what you mean by “affordable housing” in the context of your business so people can at least respond to the problem you see.

    San Francisco and Chapel Hill are hardly comparable in economics, geography or demographics. The attempt to draw parallels using the Atlantic article is silliness incarnate.

  11. plurimus

     /  December 31, 2015

    Recent flooding at Camelot Village threatens to further reduce the affordable housing stock. Given that freakish weather patterns are becoming more common, I expect these unfortunate displacements to be more frequent.

    I would like to see a plan to condemn Camelot Village and turn the land to recreational purposes that can survive flooding without displacing people. This plan must be unshakeably tied to new affordable units in a nearby area that does not flood giving preference to the existing long time Camelot Village residents.

    Too bad the town council led by hizhonor just gave away the towns right of first refusal to the American Legion property and negotiated another expensive development (600 units I read). This unctuous transaction was accomplished in an 11th hour closed door session without any public input…..shameful.